Have you ever reflected upon how often Scripture emphasizes repentance as the human road to redemption, while stubborn refusal to repent leads to destruction? For example, Cain killed his brother Abel out of jealousy, but refused to admit his crime. Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus,
and hung himself; Peter, however, after betraying Jesus, repented (Do you love me, Peter…). King David murdered the husband of Bathsheba so he could take her for himself, but repented when confronted by the prophet Nathan about his crimes. Time and again, the prophets—Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, exhorted the people to abandon their worship of idols and return to the Lord. When they did, they prospered. When they refused, they were defeated by their enemies and hauled off into exile.
The point is: when an event is repeated in Scripture again and again, there is a lesson for us to learn. Go our own ways, independent of, or indifferent to God’s will and eventually disaster will befall us. Why? Because we were not created, whether we acknowledge it or not, to live apart from our Creator.
This is why I think of Lent as a season to be celebrated. Each of us has some housecleaning to do during this time, but the time for growth is short. The Trideum—Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter are just four weeks away. You, perhaps, have been dutiful in your plans to grow closer to God, shedding whatever has gotten in the way and embracing whatever brings you closer. But perhaps not! Still, there is time to improve!
God is more than ready to bless all efforts to follow His will, but we have to do our part. The lever, the impetus to act that we need is grace…and grace will empower us once we conform to God’s will in our lives.
In our first reading from Exodus, God commissions Moses to lead the enslaved Israelites out of Egypt. We know, however, that once freed, instead of being grateful, the people complained bitterly about desert life. They were unwilling to do to God’s will, so they suffered terribly and died in the desert wilderness. St. Paul warns the church of Corinth that their fate will be the same. Just as God was displeased with most of the Israelites at that time, so, too, with those Corinthians who grumble and sin; they, too, will perish, St. Paul warns them.
Jesus’ message to the Israelites of His time is the same: pay attention, Jesus says; look around you and see what happens to those who do evil. Let this be a warning to you—your fate will be the same unless you
repent. Bear good fruit, as you were created to do, otherwise you will be cut down like a barren fig tree and burned.
The Lenten message today is clear: embrace new ways of living! Stick to resolutions to do good; be either lackadaisical nor presumptuous. Although God is patient with us, none of us knows when we will be called to give an account of our lives. So, take this opportunity to admit to our failings (unlike Cain and Judas), thank God for the goodness within us, and surrender our lives completely to God’s Holy Will.